Symantics, Metaphor, Religion, and Clarity of Thought



For an article on a related topic, see:

My website programmer Dan and my wife Nancy each  say they like the rich content of my blog. They say it will help potential clients, and colleagues, to find me. Just hit the red button, use the search engine, and you will see for yourself. For example, search for “mediation” and you will get 69 “hits”! Perhaps 50 0f them are substantive articles on my views on mediation, in family cases, personal injury, and civil litigation.

Thy also say brevity is a virtue. My last article was long and substantive, as is the one I am working on (how trial lawyers can communicate with conservatives), so here is one a bit shorter.

Editor’s note: Easier said than done. As the writer said, “If I had more time, this would have been a lot shorter.”

1. While everyone else was covering the “Great New England Blizzard of 2015”, Fareed Zacaria covered something much more important to America’s long term best interests, the President’s ground-breaking visit to India, and the renewal of our relationship and friendship.

2. He spent an hour with a man who is highly intelligent, and who may even become regarded as a great man, our President Barack Obama.

3. And, I posted a link to the “Mormon Heretic” websiteg this morning,  and coverage of a fellow who will soon be excommunicated from “The Church of Latter Day Saints”.

4. And, my wife and I attended church today, and I decided to include my comments to my wife  on the ride home.

5. Here are my comments:

a. The heretic questions his sect’s founder, Joseph Smith, who had 30 wives, including teenagers and women he took from intact marriages of his parishioners, and he questions the prohibition against the  ordination of women, and he advocates “gender equity”. As a result, they are kicking him out. Who could want a guy like him in their group?

b. President Obama had a good interview. I commend it to you. Just stream it on iTunes. I agreed with much of it, but when pressed on his refusal to admit there is a war on terrorism, or to use the terms, Radical Islam, or Moslem Extremists”, or terrorists, he fell back on “sound bites”. He insisted 99.99% of Islam is moderate and peaceful. That begs the question. RADICAL Islam is violent, and its practitioners are Terrorists. Doubt it? Look at the billion dollars or so that is being spent to protect the Super Bowl today! The fear and threat is costing civilized societies dearly. (I subsequently reconsidered my views on this point in a FB post. jbh)

c. If you think I am picking on only Joseph Smith, I am not. For example,  read “Clear” if you want to find a monomaniac who formed a religion, L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. Read “Clear” if you want to read a scary book.

d. Our sermon at our United Methodist Church this morning was about Jesus’ first public sermon. Someone in the audience shouted out, “Are you here to destroy us?” Jesus looked at him, as a result of which his questioner  was thrown into convulsions, and “a demon” was expelled from his mouth. What?! This was from “the gospels”, not the old testament? What are the people in our congregation, including the children, to make of that story. Perhaps Criticize the founder of a religion at your great peril!?

6. Here are me points of disagreement or clarification with these stories.

a. Of course the President and El Jazeera, and CNN do not want to be provocative or offend Moslems in general. BUT, even though a small percentage of purported Moslems are terrorists, thousands are military fighters, and (this troubles me), millions in the cities of the Middle East and even in Europe cheer the terrorists bombings, if not the beheadings.

b. If we  are going to mobilize the civilized world against the threat of chaos and hatred, we should clearly identify our enemies. I say call them terrorists if they kill or maim non-combatants, or set off suicide bombs, or bring down civilian airplanes. These people are not “combatants” or “militants” or “soldiers”. They are filthy, amoral, murderers. Call them that. Soldiers who are risking their lives for their countries, volunteers or draftees, are a different animal, even if they are our enemies. Armies that abide by the Geneva Convention are different from those that do not.

c. And, I am one of the few critics who will say this,  the Pres. is terrified to be seen as criticizing religion in general. His people are already hyper of his being accused of being a Moslem. He does not dare point out that religion often enhances tribalism and violence.

d. “People of faith” get a free pass, of course, because our country has religious freedom? Perhaps, but I see something less noble  What we really should have  is freedom of our beliefs. People who doubt, people who do not have faith, people who accept the hated term “atheist, and people who advocate a different path for their own religion have freedom too.

6. So, what do I think? I say call them “religious terrorists” or just “terrorists”. (Editor: Islamic or Moslem Terrorist may be accurate, but may diminish our ability to ally ourselves with Moslem Moderates, or Moslems of less radical sects. Why poke them in the eye if we don’t have to. )  That is what they are. And call a moderate Christian, a mainstream Moslem, a peaceful or moderate Moslem, by those terms. Of course there are provocative terms that should be avoided. But these are not such terms.

7. And what of my minister’s plight in preaching on the topic the Methodist Hierarchy gave her today? That was the assigned verse, so how to present it and not insult an intelligent listener, while getting through to an unsophisticated listener. (Forget about the guy asleep in the back.)

a. I do not like the idea that thousands of ministers have to speak on an assigned Bible verse on a particular week. Setting that aside, here’s what I would say.

b. As Jesus was speaking, a man shouted, “Are you here to destroy us?”. I think I would like to say, “Jesus addressed the man, who was so upset he had a seizure of some kind.” I believe that the biblical reference was a metaphor. We know from modern science and medicine that there are no demons, and people are not “possessed of them”, but something cathartic clearly took place. Jesus’ message was new and fresh. It was not an archaic, dry, Talmudic teaching. To the people there it was understandable, alive, and inspiring. It spoke of peace, an orderly life, charity, compassion, and freedom. Clearly, the message overwhelmed the man, and Jesus was on his way to becoming a “big deal”.

c. A cynic might say that Peter had slipped the guy a couple Denarii to put on a show and convince the audience that Jesus was Godlike. There is no such evidence. I say, point out whenever possible that the Bible speaks in metaphor, and every time water is changed to wine, or someone is brought back to life, or a bush burns and is not consumed, it has to be a metaphor, because physics and chemistry were the same then as they are now. If religion promotes one doctrine over another because “our guy” had a special pipeline to God, sorry, that’s b.s.

d. Brilliant ideas stand on their own, as do evil acts, as does stupidity itself.

7. I say strive for the rational, the provable, the good, the honorable, and the compassionate.

8. But, when necessary, call a spade a spade. jbh

This post was written by Burton Hunter


  • Jack says:

    I’m confused but starting to really enjoy you!
    What is the difference Moslem or Muslim or is there none?

    • Hello Jack;
      Sorry for any confusion; the difference is in my limited spelling ability. According to the book Islam, by Karen Armstrong, there have been dozens/hundreds of sects and divisions of Moslem thought, some rational, and science based, but often not. This new radical version is Islam’s reaction to the fact that the secular and scientific and high technology societies have squeezed them out, and they are bitter and resentful. Clearly my religious views aren’t mainstream for our local churches, but I am headed off to choir practice tonight, so I’m hanging in. My related post “Burt’s View on Religion and Religiosity” talks about the foundation of some of my ideas. I believe in having “evidence”, a rational analysis, broad learning, tolerance, and adaptation to our modern world and its technology. I believe in protecting our planet as best we can, showing respect to other people, and of sending as many of us off to other planets as we can manage. We have had “all our eggs in one basket” long enough. I remember your expressing views on Dr. Kevorkian years ago that surprised me. I have come to have a more nuanced view on such things as my own parents aged and moved on. Take care. Burt

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.